The Florida Gulf Coast Center for Fishing & Interactive Museum’s soft-opening on April 2 was an unqualified success according to Jim Simons, the new non-profit’s director. The Largo museum is the headquarters for the group’s long-standing outreach efforts to enlighten the community about marine life.
“Our purpose is to teach kids about life through fishing, to encourage success in school and to help adults in the marine industry gain vocational training,” Simons says, pointing out that the museum is the natural next step in that process.
The museum’s grand opening is slated for September, when the center will be officially completed. The facility’s auditorium, which is already finished and operating, will show marine-related fare like the classic Flipper series and Free Willy.
A 3,000 square foot gallery features the work of emerging marine and landscape artists who will also work on-site once a month, making the space a would-be artist’s colony for guests–and especially kids, notes Simons–to observe. A legacy section charts the progress of various families in Tampa Bay, and the historical exhibits are offered in conjunction with USF St. Pete’s Florida Studies program, whose students are curating them.
The museum also houses a culinary institute, and offers educational programs in everything from Japanese fish rubbing to rod-building and cast-netting, as well as marine photography and how-to-fish courses.
The opening has been heavily promoted on local news stations and other media outlets and was attended by a diverse mix of families, professionals and marine enthusiasts. Since the group established fishing clubs in local high schools a month ago, 1,000 members have joined, with plans to introduce the club to elementary and middle schools already in the works.
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